Monday, September 29, 2008

I am such a slacker blogger

Here we are three days into the event, and I haven't even wished everyone Happy Banned Books Week! Yes, it's Banned Books Week 2008! Time for all of us to read a banned book. Or more than one. You have lots of great choices: Just from the list of those suffering banning or attempted banning in the past year, there's the entire Harry Potter opus; Alice Walker's The Color Purple; that perennial favorite among censors, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn (number four on the top-ten list, and I suspect old Sam Clemens would be tickled pink); John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men; Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird; and Richard Wright's Black Boy.

My personal recommendation for 2008? Felice Newman's The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us. Because even if you aren't a lesbian, you are one of "All of Us."

In any event, Banned Books Week runs through next Saturday, so stand up for freedom of expression! And stand up to the censors.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Black Swallowtail's Turn

Continuing, again, the butterfly saga that I started in the two posts immediately below, these are a sequence of pictures that I took of a Black Swallowtail emerging from its chrysalis. But first, this is how it all starts: A tiny, recently hatched Swallowtail caterpillar (the coloration will change as it gets bigger). For comparison, my finger is in the picture, and also that yellow dot to the right is an unhatched Swallowtail egg:


Much munched vegetation later, a chrysalis, and when it turns translucent the butterfly is ready to emerge. The Black Swallowtail, unlike the Monarch, is straight, not folded, in the chrysalis, and it begins to emerge by splitting at the top, after which it just marches on out:

swallowtailemerging1 swallowtailemerging2 swallowtailemerging3 swallowtailemerging4 swallowtailemerging5 swallowtailemerging6 swallowtailemerging7 swallowtailemerging8 swallowtailemerging9


King and Queen

Continuing the butterfly saga (see post immediately below), these are a sequence of pictures put together from two different Monarchs that Judi photographed emerging from their chrysalises. The Monarch's emergence is quite different from the Black Swallowtail's. The Monarch is folded in half inside the chrysalis, which splits from the bottom. The Monarch literally unfolds its body, and is left hanging onto the bottom of the chrysalis, with the wings flapped out to either side:

monarchemerging1 monarchemerging2 monarchemerging3 monarchemerging4 monarchemerging5 monarchemerging6

The butterfly emerges with wings folded, and has to hang upside-down while he or she pumps fluid from the abdomen into the wings to inflate them:

monarchwithwingsstillfolded2 monarchwithwingsstillfolded3

This one fell (to no harm), and had to be picked up and returned to his or her perch. The newly-emerged wings have the texture and consistency of finest, shimmering silk -- they are incredible. Here's this specimen on Judi's knee and in her hand, before being transported to resume hanging wings-down:




Big Doin's in the Butterfly Garden

It's been a busy time on the butterfly front: We've had fifteen Black Swallowtails and six Monarchs emerged from chrysalises this week. We got to watch a lot of them come out! And I have a lot of pictures. I'm going to break them up over several posts. Clicking on any picture should give you a bigger version.

Let's start with one morning's scene inside the Caterpillar Chateau. You can see a newly emerged Monarch and a newly emerged Swallowtail hanging and drying their wings, a Monarch chrysalis (that bright thing on the left), and two Swallowtail chrysalises (the things hanging from the plant stalks near the bottom and right). The right-most Swallowtail chrysalis has turned translucent -- you can see the butterfly inside -- so it's ready to emerge itself shortly:


Two Black Swallowtails on Judi's hands:


Judi holding two Black Swallowtails on one hand (gosh she's strong :):


A Black Swallowtail up close and personal:


Transferring a Black Swallowtail to a cluster of penta flowers, and the butterfly on the flowers:

swallowtailtransfertopenta swallowtailonpenta

A Monarch on Judi's hand:


Action photo!


The Monarch on a tibouchina:


Before I get to the other action-packed posts, there was one especially poignant moment during the excitement and, sometimes, chaos of the past week. However, to read about it you will have to jump to my new blog that I mentioned a little while ago. To continue reading about this poignant moment, click here.

You will need to be approved to read that blog (reason explained in the previous post), but if you would like to be approved, all you need to do is ask. Click here and send me a message. That's all you need to do. I will approve you (as long as you're not Certain Someone). I promise.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Pretty. Darned. Amazing.

At 7:00 this morning Judi and I watched a Monarch butterfly emerge from her chrysalis.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th: An Emergence

This morning Judi's first Black Swallowtail emerged from its chrysalis. She found it clinging to its empty chrysalis inside the Caterpillar House. It crawled onto her proffered hand. Here are pictures -- overwings and underwing:

First Swallowtail Overwing

First Swallowtail Underwing

Judi was transported.

The butterfly sat for a while, first on her hand, then on my arm, and eventually on my shoulder. It flexed its abdomen, excreting bits of green goo that we already knew to be a waste byproduct of the metamorphosis. Then, finally, I felt a tiny springing push-off and it was airborne, about six inches above my shoulder, flying. It made a circle in the air, then flew around the (folded) patio umbrella, and then soared up along the roof of the house and then over the peak of the roof and just like that it was gone. And the world was a little more beautiful.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Real people are so much stranger than fictional ones

Yesterday, on the main road that winds through my subdivision, I got stuck behind a car that was going five miles an hour slower than the already-modest speed limit. It was a big car: a Lincoln. I could see a head of snow-white hair above the drivers-side headrest.

Now, this is Florida, so it's practically an everyday occurrence to be stuck behind a senior citizen driving a big fuddy-duddy sedan slower than the speed limit. But it's not every day that you get stuck behind a senior citizen driving slower than the speed limit in a big fuddy-duddy sedan that has a bumper sticker that reads: Born Again Pagan.

Nope, not every day.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Update from the Butterfly Garden

We have Monarch caterpillars! This is so exciting. Actual picture from the garden (click on oany picture for a larger version):

Monarch Caterpillar

The Monarchs kind of snuck up on us by surprise. We haven't actually noticed many Monarch butterflies. However, the caterpillars have been busy. These two pictures, stiched together, show a milkweed patch from about a week ago, and the same patch yesterday:

Monarch Milkweed Before and After

We had to relocate five pretty-good-sized (over an inch long) Monarch caterpillars to a fresh salad bar.

To give you an idea what kind of eating these creatures are up to, this is a stitched-together picture of a normal dill plant, on the left, and parsley, on the right:

Dill and Parsley Before

This is what those two plants looked like after the Black Swallowtail caterpillars were done with them:

Dill and Parsley After

Of course the plants aren't dead: The milkweed will come back, and the dill and parsley are scheduled to be planted in the new Herb Garden. In the meantime, we have butterflies on the way. And on that subject, I didn't realize that caterpillars can match the color of their chrysalis, chameleon-like, to where they decide to anchor themselves, but these stitched-together pictures are both undoubtably Black Swallowtail chrysalises, one attached to a piece of wood and one to a stalk of parsley. You can figure out for yourself which is which:

Two Black Swallowtail Chrysalises



It’s been more than a year since I posted an Evelyn update in this blog. For most of that time I wasn’t posting anything at all, but still, that is about half of her life so maybe it is time for an update.

It seems that she changes every day. Evelyn turned two in May and we can certainly see her personality peaking through from behind her disappearing helplessness. She is walking and talking, and running and singing. Most of this is, of course, a blessing and a curse with the blessings outweighing the cursings (to coin a phrase) by about 1000 to 1. We used to be able to sing her to sleep. Now when we sing to her she takes it as an invitation and starts to sing along. Well, you say, just sing a song she doesn’t know. No dice. We’ll get about half a line in and she will say ‘Your land’, or ‘winkle winkle’, or ‘I been de wailroad’ meaning ‘This Land is Your Land’, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ or ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad’ respectively. On the plus side, the sound of her singing along with us is one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard.

Of course, she doesn’t know what “I’ve roamed and rambled, I’ve followed my footsteps” means. You can tell that she doesn’t know what it means because she says it as a sentence. Although her capacity for words and stringing them together grows daily it is always delightfully obvious when she is developing the sentence herself. ‘Daddy. Sit. Chair. Wead. Omenahight’ is her way of saying “Daddy, please sit in that chair and read ‘Snowmen at Night’” (OK, I am not sure if the ‘please’ is in there, but I would like to think it is). The book title she says as a single unit because she has heard us say it enough. For the rest there is a short pause between each word as she string them together herself. It is so interesting watching her pick up new words and string them together.

With the walking (and running and jumping and climbing) comes the seed of independence. Among the things we are no longer allowed to do for her: put her in her car seat, put on her socks, put on her sandals (but not with her socks). When we try to do any of these things she will tell us ‘Do it’, which is her way of saying ‘I can do it myself, so bug off’. Once she masters a task it is hers and she is immensely proud to complete it herself. Her capacity for doing things herself is not limited to simple tasks. The other day we had a yard sale. This was part of our ongoing quest to clean out the garage enough so that by winter we can store both cars in there. Linda and I were in front of the house doing retail duty when Evelyn wanted something (I forget what it was, probably her water, or Mooch, a little stuffed dog she is fond of). Linda says to her “I think it is in the kitchen on the table, why don’t you go see if it is there”. It continually amazes me that our 2 year old daughter understands what must be for her complex sentences. Understand she did though because in she trekked and shortly thereafter she came out with the desired item. To my knowledge it was the first time she had gone into the house by herself. I must confess that along with being amazed by this child of ours there was also a twinge as I realized that the difference between leaving Mom and Dad in the front yard to go into the house and leaving Mom and Dad to go to college is just a matter of degree. I would long for the days when she couldn’t get around like that, but then we would have missed out on her rather creative dance moves, her somersaults, her going down the slide at the local park or watching her little arms pump as she runs along the sidewalk.

Parenting is such an amazing journey.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Process: Broken

It's my job (the one I get paid for) to study how people do things, to help them find the best ways to do things, and, ultimately, to design and write software to support the way they do things. I've been doing this for a long time, and so I tend to notice, wherever I happen to be, how people do things. I admire good processes. I shake my head over broken processes.

Starbucks, your process is so broken.

As you may remember, I've recently become a regular at Starbucks. What I'm about to tell you may only apply to the Starbucks stores here in Brevard County, Florida. I don't know if Starbucks are the same everywhere. But in the stores here (and I've been to them all, most multiple times), this is how I think the process is supposed to work:

  1. Cashier employee takes my order and taps it into the system.

  2. System prints out a little label, which barista employee sticks on cup.

  3. Barista employee reads label, makes drink as specified, and delivers to me.

Seems simple, eh? Efficient, even. But it never works that way. The way it actually works varies quite a bit from visit to visit, but here's a good example, from yesterday:

  1. Cashier-dudette took my order and tapped it into system.

  2. Cashier-dudette yelled my order to barista-dude.

  3. Barista-dude yelled back, "What?"

  4. Repeat step 2.

  5. Barista-dude walked over and stared over cashier-dudette's shoulder, reading order as displayed on screen.

  6. Barista-dude walked back and prepared my drink.

  7. Barista-dude peeled label off printer and, without reading it, stuck it on cup containing my already-made drink

  8. Barista-dude handed me my drink

As I said, the actual process varies from visit to visit. But it always involves yelling. And never involves reading the little label.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Anticipating the dawn

I took this picture of the Mexican Bluebells growing in front of Judi's house this morning:

Mexican Bluebells awaiting the dawn

The picture is a little dark, but there's a good reason for that: It was dark at the time. The sun was just beginning to light the eastern horizon. But these Mexican Bluebell flowers were already open, already facing the dawn, awaiting, anticipating the magnificent arrival of day. They seemed both eager and reverential. They were a choir of little blue faces.

They couldn't help but cheer me up. How can I feel down when the Bluebells and I are waiting for the sunrise together?

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Welcome to the cruise ship

A brand-newly hatched Black Swallowtail caterpillar, just out of the egg (those are the whorls of my fingerprints for size comparison):

Newly hatched Black Swallowtail

They get bigger (you can see an unhatched egg in this picture, too):

Growing Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

They get lots bigger (same finger and thumb):

Grown Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

No kidding: The caterpillar in the third picture is the same -- Black Swallowtail -- as in the first picture.

At the Butterfly Farm in St. Martin, they joke that the caterpillar is the "cruise ship phase" of the butterfly's life, because all they do is eat, eat, eat. However, I can assure you that there is one more thing they do a lot of:

They poop, poop, poop.

But as they make their way from the critter in the first picture to the monster in the third, and then eventually to this, they are subject to predation. Lots of things around here want to eat them -- lizards, tree frogs, and birds, to name a few. So...

...this post is concluded in my new blog and I mentioned a little while ago. You can read it simply by clicking here. You will need to be approved to read that blog (reason explained in the previous post), but if you would like to be approved, all you need to do is ask. Click here and send me a message. That's all you need to do. I will approve you (as long as you're not Certain Someone). I promise.

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